Did you know magnesium is essential for over 300 processes in the human body? From the normal function of healthy bones to a reduction of tiredness and fatigue. Did you know that magnesium (Mg) is the fourth most common mineral in the human body after calcium, sodium, and potassium and is the second most common intracellular cation after potassium?
What would happen if I wrote a headline saying 28,000 people in the UK die each year due to a lack of Magnesium? Well, let me tell you about a tragic event in Israel. For several years their water source came from desalinated sea water. The trouble is the process not only removes the sea salt, but all other minerals too. The net result is just plain water, as far away from mineralised water as you can imagine. And that’s a problem because most people get most of their magnesium from drinking water. Research found that “an estimated 4,000 Israelis die in an average year due to an inadequate amount of magnesium in their bodies. The figure is tenfold the death toll from road accidents” (the clott thickens page 288). Now the population of Israel is just over 9 million, so if this happened in the UK, then it would be circa 28,000 people per annum.
Despite magnesium playing a role in over 300 bodily processes, most of us are no longer getting enough in either our water or our regular diets.
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for Mg in North America is 310–320mg and 410–420 mg per day for females and males, respectively, while the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends 300 mg for women and 350 mg for men as the adequate daily intake of the mineral. Lots of numbers to consider, but all you need to know is you are no longer likely to be getting this from your food; even if you make healthy choices.
A fairly recent study found that 75% of Americans are not getting enough magnesium in their diet (let’s assume that is the same for us Brits, for whom we unfortunately don’t have the raw data). How can this be the case? Our environment has changed. Today even healthy foods are often nutrient-deficient! Today, you must eat gigantic servings of vegetables to equal the nutrition of one serving from previous decades. Seriously, you know it’s bad when the FDA admits that nutrient levels in soil have dropped 81% in the past 30 years. That means, statistically, we now need to eat five times as much vegetables and fruit as we did 30 years ago, to get the same nutritional benefit. Yes, five times more, yet my guess is overall we are consuming less and less magnesium.
Where can magnesium still be found naturally?
In foods such as legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables (such as spinach). It can also be found in milk, yogurt, and other milk products.
This photo from Harvard Medical School shows some magnesium rich foods.
Although these foods contain magnesium, the concentration is believed to have dropped in the last fifty years by as much a 80%. And compounding the issue is that much of it is lost during modern food processing. So, a double negative whammy. The depleted soil yields less and what little is still available, gets destroyed in the processing of food! Yet remember, it is crucial to over 300 bodily functions.
According to Donald Davis and his team of researchers from the University of Texas, “Efforts to breed new varieties of crops that provide greater yield, pest resistance and climate adaptability have allowed crops to grow bigger and more rapidly,” reported Davis, “but their ability to manufacture or uptake nutrients has not kept pace with their rapid growth.” As a consequence, a large percentage of people all over the world, no longer receive their vital daily dose of magnesium.
Furthermore, the cooking and boiling of foods, result in a significant decline in the Mg content. And as a nation we are eating less and less uncooked, un-processed foods.
And making things even worse still, is the fact that a vitamin D deficiency can cause a reduction in gastrointestinal absorption of magnesium. This is important to consider, as in Britain during our winter months, many of us do not get enough exposure to direct sunlight, which can lead to a deficiency in vitamin D. So much so, that even the NHS advise that everyone should consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement during the autumn and winter.
There are also other factors which could lead to a magnesium deficiency such as:
- Low magnesium diet
- Gastrointestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease and celiac disease
- Excess alcohol consumption
- Conditions such as diabetes
Common symptoms of Magnesium deficiency
How do you know if you have a magnesium deficiency? The following are some symptoms of a magnesium deficiency but, if you're concerned about your magnesium levels, we recommend you ask your doctor for a blood test or immediately start to take a quality magnesium supplement.
- Muscle twitching and cramps
- Mental disorders
- Fatigue and muscle weakness
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
Some studies have found that a lack of magnesium in the body may be stressful for your body, which can lead to an increase in the production of stress hormones. Further studies have also found a significant link between low magnesium intake and depression in adults.
The benefits of magnesium
The following are some of the relevant health benefits from magnesium according to the European Food Safety Authority:
- Contributes to the normal function of healthy bones, teeth and the nervous system. This is because magnesium is involved in bone formation through its influence on bone turnover, as well as its role in potentiating vitamin D.
- Contributes to regular muscle function, including the heart. Magnesium helps lower blood pressure in people with elevated levels and helps move blood sugar into your muscles and dispose of lactate, which can build up during exercise and cause fatigue.
- Contributes to a reduction of tiredness and fatigue. magnesium is involved in a wide range of bodily processes. This means that a deficiency can easily lead to tiredness and fatigue as these processes simply aren't being carried out efficiently.
- Contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism. a cause and effect relationship has been established between the dietary
intake of magnesium and normal energy-yielding metabolism.
- Contributes to electrolyte balance. Soft tissue magnesium functions as a cofactor of many enzymes involved in the maintenance of the electrical potential of nerve tissue and cell membranes.
- Contributes to normal protein synthesis. Magnesium is an essential cofactor of enzymes involved in protein synthesis and protein synthesis is reported to be sensitive to magnesium depletion.
Why might you choose to take supplements?
As we have learned even the FDA admits that the vitamin and mineral levels of our foods have fallen 81 percent over the last 30 years.
Therefore, magnesium supplements are not simply a good idea, they are surly essential for your good health. By taking magnesium supplements you are ensuring your body is getting the nutrient it needs, avoiding a deficiency in magnesium and gaining benefits such as a reduction of tiredness and fatigue.
Are all Magnesium Supplements Equal?
The benefit of magnesium bisglycinate over alternatives such as magnesium oxide, is that it has a stronger bioavailability which makes it easily absorbed by the body. This form is also the least likely to cause a laxative effect which is common with other types of magnesium. Furthermore, according to a handful of promising studies, bisglycinate potentially can help reduce anxiety and stress. Research has indicated that people tolerate it well and that it seems to cause minimal to no side effects.
While far cheaper, it is typically not a good choice for individuals looking to raise their magnesium levels as studies have found it to be poorly absorbed by the digestive tract. Furthermore, magnesium oxide has a laxative effect which makes it a good option for constipation but for others may just lead to unwanted diarrhoea.
Other types of magnesium
There are plenty of other types of magnesium supplements available such as Magnesium citrate which is also popular but also causes unwanted digestive side effects, such as diarrhoea.
Applying magnesium topically (i.e., directly onto the skin) has several potential benefits, including:
- Relieving muscle soreness and cramps: Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a role in muscle function and relaxation. Applying magnesium topically to sore or cramping muscles may help reduce pain and discomfort.
- Improving skin health: Magnesium is involved in many cellular processes, including those related to skin health. Topical magnesium may help reduce inflammation, improve skin hydration, and promote the production of collagen and elastin.
- Enhancing sleep quality: Magnesium has a calming effect on the nervous system and may help promote relaxation and sleep. Applying magnesium topically before bed may help improve sleep quality and reduce insomnia symptoms.
Bathing in magnesium salts, can provide a range of potential health benefits, including:
- Relieving muscle tension and pain: Magnesium is known for its muscle-relaxing properties, and soaking in a bath with magnesium salts can help ease muscle tension and pain.
- Reducing stress and anxiety: Magnesium can help reduce the production of stress hormones and soaking in a warm bath can promote relaxation and reduce anxiety.
- Improving sleep quality: Soaking in a warm bath with magnesium salts before bedtime may have benefits for improving sleep quality. Magnesium is involved in the production of the sleep hormone melatonin and helps to promote relaxation by reducing the production of stress hormones like cortisol. Taking a bath with magnesium salts can help increase your body's levels of magnesium, which may help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and wake up feeling more refreshed. It's worth noting, however, that taking a bath with magnesium salts is not a substitute for other healthy sleep habits, such as creating a consistent sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed, and creating a comfortable sleep environment.
- Boosting skin health: Magnesium can improve skin hydration, reduce inflammation, and help prevent the formation of wrinkles. Bathing in magnesium salts may help promote healthier, more radiant skin.
- Enhancing overall wellbeing: Magnesium is involved in many bodily functions, including energy production, bone health, and nerve function. Bathing in magnesium salts may help support these functions and improve overall health and wellbeing.
Magnesium is used in over 300 processes in the human body and yet, probably three quarters of us aren’t getting enough via our diet. This is mainly due to factors such as vitamin and mineral levels of our foods falling 81 percent over the last 30 years. Magnesium has countless benefits such as contributing to the normal function of healthy bones, teeth, and the nervous system, and therefore supplements are not simply a good idea, they are almost necessary for your good health.
Here are ten of the most cited clinical research papers regarding the benefits of magnesium, along with a summary of their findings:
- 'Magnesium and the cardiovascular system', published in the Annual Review of Nutrition, found that magnesium plays an important role in the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease.
- 'Magnesium in hypertension, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and other conditions: a review', published in the American Journal of Hypertension, explored the potential benefits of magnesium for various health conditions, including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome.
- 'Magnesium intake and risk of type 2 diabetes: meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies', published in Diabetes Care, found that higher magnesium intake was associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
- 'Magnesium and bone health: a review of the current evidence', published in Osteoporosis International, reviewed the evidence on the potential benefits of magnesium for bone health and found that it may help improve bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
- 'Magnesium in obstetrics and gynecology', published in the Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinics of North America, explored the potential benefits of magnesium for obstetric and gynecological conditions, including preeclampsia and preterm labor.
- 'Magnesium supplementation and the prevention of cardiovascular disease', published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, reviewed the evidence on magnesium supplementation for the prevention of cardiovascular disease and found that it may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
- 'Effects of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trials', published in Hypertension Research, found that magnesium supplementation can lead to a reduction in blood pressure.
- 'Magnesium and muscle performance in older persons: the InCHIANTI study', published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that higher magnesium intake was associated with better physical performance in older adults.
- 'Magnesium in critical illness: metabolism, assessment, and treatment', published in the Intensive Care Medicine, reviewed the evidence on the potential benefits of magnesium for critically ill patients and found that it may help improve outcomes and reduce mortality.
- 'Magnesium and depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis', published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, reviewed the evidence on the potential benefits of magnesium for people with depression and found that it may help improve symptoms.